7 Signs People Are Playing "Break The Cutie" With You

Is someone trying to break you down? These signs suggest it’s time to cut and bail.

woman at work teased by coworkers Africa Studio / Shutterstock

At my last office job, I was surrounded by the worst people. These were the type of people that, whenever I had a little joy in my life, would come up with a way to crap on it. They couldn’t stand seeing me happy.

The longer I stayed there, the more depressed I was.

I actually had considered shooting heroin to just make the hurt go away and revisit that opioid apathy I missed from my Percocet days. I luckily didn’t take that route but I came d*** close.


My husband and friends were worried about my mental health. They were rightfully worried I’d kill myself if I stayed there. Eventually, I realized something after my friends and drug dealers held an intervention for me.

My coworkers were playing "Break the Cutie" with me.

What is "Break the Cutie?"

This is a term that I learned from TV Tropes. It starts with a nice, sweet character who does nothing wrong. Then, I’ll just paste the rest of the definition here:


"Then the writers proceed to slowly torment them in front of your very eyes. They destroy everything important to them, kill everyone they love, and make them suffer from horrible accidents, diseases, and acts of violence, including but not limited to torture, rape, or any other Fate Worse than Death. They beat the character with one cruel stroke of fate after another until they are just an Empty Shell of their former cheerful, carefree self."

I use this term to explain the phenomenon of a group of people who try to hurt you and damage you until you’re no longer yourself.

They just want to break you just to say they broke you. It’s a form of bullying that revels in its own cruelty.

This is a type of abuse that many narcissists do, but you don’t have to be a narcissist to do it. You just have to want to make a person miserable until they no longer can function as an adult. That’s generally when they start to control you and abuse you.


They can only break you if you let them. If you notice these signs, it’s time to get out of their grips no matter what the cost may be.

RELATED: 3 Ways To Handle The Most Negative Coworkers At Your Job

Here are 7 signs people are playing "Break the Cutie" with you:

1. They actively criticize and negate anything that brings you joy

I remember two coworkers of mine calling me a creep for marrying my spouse because he’s younger than me. I was so happy and excited about my wedding. I wanted them to be happy for me.

They just shot it down with a smile. It literally would have cost them nothing to just say "Congratulations!"

They just didn’t want me to have that. They couldn’t let me have that because it meant I would smile.


This was an ongoing theme at my workplace.

If I completed all my work ahead of time, they’d tell me I had an easy job. If I smiled and called myself a boss, they’d be quick to humiliate me in front of others. They made sure I "knew my place."

2. When they notice you enjoy something, they remove access to it

This is a thing I’ve noticed both in my former office job as well as in documentaries about cults. A lot of cults and toxic workplaces play "Break the Cutie" with people because it helps them maintain control.

One thing that really stood out to me was in Keep Sweet when Warren Jeffs banned toys for children. A lot of the moves he made were just done because he knew the things he removed kept people happy. There was no other explanation for it.


3. They purposefully trigger your trauma and insecurities

At work, I told them to stop doing certain things (such as excluding me from jokes and casual conversations) because it triggered me.

I have CPTSD from abuse and neglect, and it always started with exclusion. I get scared.

So, what did they do? They kept dialing it up.

They kept doing it and it got to the point where they made a point of looking at me and laughing about s***. The more I hurt, the more they pushed those buttons.

RELATED: 5 Damaging Effects Of A Toxic Work Environment On Your Body & Mind

4. You have caught them sabotaging you

So, this wasn’t a thing that happened at work. But, I’ll give you an example of what happened to me and my ex.


An ex of mine kept sabotaging my friendships by talking s*** about me behind my back.

He painted me as an abuser, a drug addict, the works…This was just one of many ways he’d just f*** with me to try to break me. When I caught wind of what he was doing, I quickly cut him out.

Unfortunately, a lot of those friendships were permanently severed. I have no interest in being friends with people who would believe an abusive ex over the friend they had for years prior.

When a group plays "Break the Cutie," you start seeing that on a larger scale. It’s not just one person. It’s multiple people who are undercutting you, often with one ringleader who the others follow.


The thing here is that the sabotage doesn’t have to be about isolation. It’s more about undermining your confidence in your skills or social network.

So, coworkers that sabotaged your work or a boss that sets you up to fail could also be a good sign of “Break the Cutie.”

5. You often ask what you did to deserve this treatment

I kept wondering how much harder I had to work in order to be "good enough" to be treated nicely by them again.

What did I do? Why are they so horrible to me? Why, why, why?

In reality, nothing I could have done could have warranted that level of cruelty. Nothing. No decent human being would ever treat someone who just wanted to be a friend that way.


RELATED: How I Conquered My Adult Bully Like A Grown Woman

6. You genuinely wonder if they feel any remorse for what they did

My husband straight up told me that, at one point, he wanted to shake them and scream at them, "LOOK! LOOK AT WHAT YOU’RE DOING TO MY WIFE! WHAT THE F*** IS WRONG WITH YOU?"

Most people who were there alongside me saw it. My friends in that workplace are adamant that it was one of the most toxic and disturbing manners they’ve ever seen a crowd of people behave.

Our former coworkers occasionally still talk about how awful they were. A friend of mine from that period in my life shrugged and told me, "Those people belong in a trash can."


I often wonder if they ever feel any sort of remorse or guilt for the way they treated me. I imagine they don’t.

They’re the type of people who will justify their treatment and lie to themselves — anything to make their behavior palatable to them.

7. They suddenly get panicky when they realize you’re ready to walk away

Here’s the thing about "Break the Cutie": your breakers do not want you to go away unless they’re a narcissist in the "discard" phase.


No, they want you there. Next to them. For them to kick further down.

That’s the difference between a group that wants you to go away and "Break the Cutie".

The group that wants you out will not chase you if you say you’re done with them. Breakers, on the other hand, will try to get you to stay.

Much like with most other abusive relationships, people playing "Break the Cutie" do not want you to leave. They will start to panic and suddenly get nice because they realize that they still either want or need you around.

At my office job, this meant they’d give me raises whenever they caught me applying to other jobs. Or they’d call me ungrateful and try to get me a new perk to make me feel more appreciated. Because, you know, just treating me kindly was too much to ask.


That’s why the most devastating thing you can do to a group that’s playing "Break the Cutie" is leave. That’s the only way to take back your power and make them panic.

RELATED: How To Deal With A Narcissist — 8 Smart & Simple Steps

Ossiana Tepfenhart is a writer whose work has been featured in Yahoo, BRIDES, Your Daily Dish, Newtheory Magazine, and others.